Underneath

The following bit of free writing, along with the little fox painting, was inspired by a Sarah Selecky writing prompt, which went something like this: Choose the book closest to you. Turn to page 22, find the last sentence of the second paragraph, and begin there. The nearest book to me: Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. The sentence: “Do you think you are really a cow, chipmunk, fox or horse underneath?”

Underneath I am human, am I not?

Overthinking, worrying, self-consciousness: purely human.

Cow: only grass and sunshine, maybe the occasional bull if she’s lucky, or unlucky, as the case may be for cows.

Chipmunk: only nuts, storing for the winter, scampering up trees in flight from cats or dogs or cruel children.

Fox: only hunting, or when hunger is satisfied, hiding, tucked up in a hollow with her tail over her nose.

Horse: only grazing, running over meadow and creek bed and dry windy earth, stopping for cool streams and green grass, tender shoots between rocks, or the comfort of fellow horses huddled together against the weather.

All these urges are mine, too: to eat, to mate, to hide, to roam, to retreat, to huddle for warmth, but they are conflicted, muddied by other drives: to belong, to amass wealth, to be heard, to feel good enough or better than or worthy of.

No chipmunk questions her ability to hoard nuts or climb trees; she has only instinct, the next nut.

No fox frets or speculates; the field mouse is hers or it isn’t. There is hunger or there is rest.

Do horses worry? About inclusion or exclusion, or even about predators? Do they know of mountain lions in the surrounding hills? Or do they live in happy oblivion until they scent danger, hear the stamping hooves and high whinnies of their companions, until flanks tense and ears twitch and the herd launches in one motion, away from the threat of fangs and claws? Does the horse know what it flees, or does it only flee? Is there a premonition? Or is it all peace until the flight?

How many hours have I wasted in pre-flight? A hundred narrow escapes a day, aching muscles tensed to fight, pulse raised—in vain, exhausting anticipation of monsters who never appear and peculiar, specific, tiny deaths of my own imagining.

Little Fox- acrylic on canvas by Meg Faulkner 2018

Are you a cow, a chipmunk, a fox or a horse underneath?

8 thoughts on “Underneath

  1. This was great Meg! I for one could not imagine that free writing would be so entertaining, seems like it would be limiting but you ended up have a ton of insight with that exercise. I love this idea and will try it myself, however probably not post it because I can’t imagine it being remotely entertaining, lol.

    • Well, some of them are really stupid, but sometimes good stuff comes out and you just have no idea which way it’ll go. Sometimes you do a prompt and you think it’s the lamest prompt ever, but then you write something that’s really different from what you usually turn out. If you ever feel like trying it, we can do it together! I have a couple friends that I do writing prompts with. And we did free writing in the class I just finished, the one I told you about last fall. That’s how they teach, with free writing as the foundation. I really enjoy it, even when I write something stupid.

  2. Thank you for the reminder that whatever is close by can be the source of reflection, insight and self knowledge. It was fun. I have a thing for that little fox, seriously. So damn cute.

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